Ssangyong Motor Co. Ltd.’s management refused to meet with union representatives Saturday to discuss ending the fiery standoff between strikers and police at its Pyeongtaek vehicle assembly complex.
The auto maker broke off the dialogue entered into on Friday when it became apparent armed members of the Korea Metal Workers Union were planning to descend on the plant to intervene and assist the strikers.
“Seven thousand armed representatives from the metal workers union held a massive demonstration in Pyeongtaek, then marched on our plant and tried to force their way in,” a spokesman who was on the scene tells Ward’s by cell phone.
“It’s quieter at the plant today (Monday), but the demonstrators are planning to come back in force again on Wednesday.”
Police estimate 500 or more of the demonstrators wielded steel rods or bamboo clubs when they tried to force their way into the plant Friday. Police responded with water cannon and tear gas.
“It would be pointless to begin talks unless the violent acts at our plant are ended,” the company says in an official statement. “The union is trying to prolong the illegal occupation of the plant by making a “> gesture of dialogue.”
The spokesman says the strikers are part of a group of 976 employees whose jobs were terminated July 8.
“The union is asking us to put all of them in temporary retirement status with all of their benefits, and we cannot accept that,” the spokesman says. “We cannot afford to do that, and we have to fire some of them.”
The strikers continue occupying the plant’s paint shop and vehicle assembly lines, while Ssangyong employees and police hold all other parts of the plant.
Police authorities report more than 50 striking workers were arrested over the weekend.
South Korea’s Supreme Public Prosecutor’s office reportedly says organizers of the volatile sit-in and those who have fired missiles or thrown fire bombs at police will be severely punished.
However, strikers who walk away peaceably will receive a light punishment. So far, only 20 workers have taken prosecutors at their word and left the premises.